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[ NNSquad ] Pipe dream [ ref: FCC Broadband Plan ]

----- Forwarded message from David Farber <dave@farber.net> -----

Date: Sat, 20 Mar 2010 23:34:35 -0400
From: David Farber <dave@farber.net>
Subject: [IP] Pipe dream
Reply-To: dave@farber.net
To: ip <ip@v2.listbox.com>

Begin forwarded message:

From: dewayne@warpspeed.com (Dewayne Hendricks)
Date: March 20, 2010 9:17:33 AM EDT
To: Dewayne-Net Technology List <xyzzy@warpspeed.com>
Subject: [Dewayne-Net] Pipe dream

Plans for broadband
Pipe dream
Not what was asked for
Mar 18th 2010 | WASHINGTON, DC | From The Economist print edition

A YEAR ago, Congress asked for a plan that would provide affordable broadband service to all America’s citizens. On March 16th, the Federal Communications Commission responded with a non sequitur: a national wireless plan which is good in its way, but which largely fails to tackle the problem it was asked to solve.

There is much to like in the FCC’s proposal. It proposes to auction a large chunk of radio spectrum that could be used to provide data to wireless devices, and to encourage existing licence-holders, in particular broadcasters, to auction or sell any capacity they are not using. It also frees up more spectrum for tinkering on unlicensed space. This is no small thing; the standard for Wi-Fi was developed on unlicensed spectrum that had been considered “junk band”, cluttered with low-intensity signals from microwave ovens and baby monitors. None of this, though, will do much to make broadband access universal or more affordable.

Almost uniquely among OECD countries, America has adopted no policies to require the owners of broadband cables to open their infrastructure to rival sellers in order to enhance competition. America relies almost exclusively on “facilities competition”, the provision of rival infrastructures: a cable provider may compete, for example, with a network that runs optical fibre to the home. True, there is a legitimate worry that forcing a company to rent out parts of its infrastructure to competitors may deter investment, but a review of international broadband policies prepared for the FCC by Harvard’s Berkman Centre for Internet & Society revealed a range of successful compromises in use in other countries. The FCC has availed itself of none of them, and suggests that wireless broadband could instead provide more competition. But wireless data transfer is very much slower and less reliable than fixed broadband; it is more a complement than a competitor.

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----- End forwarded message -----